The Forest overtakes the trees in College World Series opener

Late-inning heroics from Danny Corona lift the Demon Deacons over Stanford


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Danny Corona celebrates his go-ahead, two-run single in the bottom of the eighth.

Avikar Khakh, Staff Writer

For the first time since 1955, the Demon Deacons are finally back in Omaha, Neb. and this unique and talented team is not satisfied yet. 

After dominating their way through the Regional and Super Regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament, No. 1 seed Wake Forest looks to sustain the firepower that has gotten them this far. Scoring 48 runs in three games of the Regional round, followed up by a downpour of 27 runs through two Super Regional games against Alabama, Wake Forest has proven time and again that they are a force to be reckoned with.

In game one of the College World Series,  the Demon Deacons scored notably fewer runs but still pulled out a miraculous come-from-behind victory against Stanford by the final score of 3-2.  

Wake Forest went with its ace junior Rhett Lowder (1.80 ERA), who faced Stanford’s junior Joey Dixon (4.86 ERA). In front of a nearly full crowd at Charles Schwab Field Omaha, Lowder and Dixon battled as both teams struggled to gain a significant lead. 

Stanford broke the ice in the first inning. With bases loaded, Lowder hit Malcolm Moore with a pitch, scoring junior Eddie Park and making it 1-0 Cardinal. Lowder, who struggled in the first inning of the contest, bounced back immediately by throwing a quick one-two-three second inning. Continuing the momentum, junior Brock Wilken blasted his 31st home run of the season to deep left field, tying the game at one. Stanford responded swiftly in the top half of the third inning after junior Carter Graham hit an RBI single to right center field, scoring junior Tommy Troy and giving the Cardinal back the lead at 2-1. That would be the last Cardinal run scored in the game.

The two teams remained in an offensive stalemate for the next four innings, and eventually in the sixth, Lowder’s afternoon came to an end. His final line was 5.1 IP, 2R (2ER), 7 H, and 6 K. Trusted sophomore Sean Sullivan (2.47 ERA) took the mound from Lowder and successfully got through the sixth and two-thirds of the seventh innings until a weather delay that lasted more than an hour. 

Then, junior Seth Keener (1.79 ERA) took over for Sullivan and got out of a jam with a huge strikeout to end the inning. Pitching became the storyline of this matchup, as both teams struggled to string together positive at-bats to lead to runs. 

Keener — who already came through big time for the Demon Deacons — had more to show, as he pitched a fantastic eighth inning, striking out the side. Wake Forest, still down 2-1, was down to their final six outs when they finally started rallying in the eighth inning. 

With Wilken on second base and sophomore Nick Kurtz on third, sophomore Danny Corona had one of the biggest moments of his baseball career, singling up the middle to score two and give the Demon Deacons a 3-2 lead. Corona now has 19 RBIs over his past five games for the Demon Deacons.

 “Earlier in that at bat when I chased out of the zone, I was looking for something up,” Corona said after the game. “I told [hitting coach Bill Cilento] that, and he told me with that pitcher, I should actually be looking down. So when I saw it go down in the zone, I was just looking for something to drive up the middle.”

To earn the final three outs in the top half of the ninth inning, Wake Forest junior Camden Minacci (2.83 ERA) took over the mound from Keener, who finished his afternoon with 1.1 IP, zero hits allowed and four influential strikeouts. An uncharacteristic error by freshman shortstop Marek Houston allowed Stanford to reach base safely but also set up the first and only double play and the last play of the game by second baseman Justin Johnson. 

We can beat you in so many different ways. When we need to get the job done, we’re going to do the job no matter who it is in our lineup.

— Wake Forest 3B Brock Wilken

“I felt like we were tight early and nervous,” manager Tom Walter said. “[We] got out of our plan offensively [and] didn’t have great at-bats, really, for the first seven innings. Rhett Lowder didn’t have his great stuff. He gave us a chance to win like he always does. We did just enough.”

Wilken added to that thought. 

“That just shows you how versatile we are,” the third baseman said. “You know, we can beat you in so many different ways. When we need to get the job done, we’re going to do the job no matter who it is in our lineup. Whether it’s a bunt, whether it’s a long ball, a laser up the middle or whatever it may be. We have so many ways that we can win.”

Wake Forest has advanced into the winners’ bracket and will play Louisiana State University on Monday at 7 p.m. ET. Sophomore Josh Hartle will take the mound as the Demon Deacons continue their quest for a national title.